Twitter-savvy ISIS militants in ‘web war’ in Iraq


Warning: this article contains an image that some viewers may find distressingIraq crisis: Australia withraws officials, photos show alleged ‘execution’

Twitter has shut down numerous accounts used by Islamic militants to circulate graphic images of soldiers being killed as they lie facedown in the dirt.


The jihadist group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria initially posted the images using the @w_salahadden account before it was suspended.

برید تو حساب کاربری گروه تروریستی #داعش و این حساب رو ریپورت کنید @w_salahadden pic.twitter佛山桑拿网,/nAcv2NHYJp

— Vahid Abolhassani (@myvahid) June 15, 2014

A tweet posting a screenshot of the account prior to its suspension.

The group is among the most active on social media, according to director of the National Security Institute Peter Leahy, who says social platforms help recruit and boost morale.

“They use it for recruiting, they use it for propaganda purposes,” he said.

“… It raises morale and for their enemy, our friends, it would lower morale.

“I think we can quite confidently say there’s a web war going on right now and it’s been going on for a while.”

Listen: Stephanie Anderson speaks with Peter Leahy.

Professor Leahy said platforms such as Twitter and Facebook have previously been slow to react to terror-linked accounts such as @w_salahadden, which had approximately 29,000 followers prior to its suspension.

He said the media organisations have been more active recently, with Twitter suspending a number of accounts, but the Iraq Government took the most action by blocking access to the sites.

“We’re now seeing action by the Maliki Government to make sure that Facebook, Twitter and other things aren’t used to the advantage of Isis,” he said.

“… I think in this event – which you could only call a huge problem, this is a severe national security threat – that the Maliki Government is quite warranted in shutting down something that might aid the enemy.”

Some citizens have lashed out against the web blackout.

iraqi Gov Banned the online freedom of speech and right to access to information #insm_iq #iraq #baghdad

— Iraqi Blogger (@Hamzoz) June 15, 2014

Other ISIS accounts have been suspended in the wake of the images, which show dozens of Shiite soldiers being driven to a rural area where they are forced to lie face down in the dirt with their hands tied behind their back.

Horrific images allegedly of a mass execution of Shia soldiers in Tikrit by ISIS are being posted by @w_salahadden pic.twitter佛山桑拿网,/PhVYJGtXFv

— Matthieu Aikins (@mattaikins) June 15, 2014

Other images appear to show the men being fired on by a member of the Sunni militia and dead bodies.

None of the photos have been verified. 

Unverified videos have also emerged from the region, claiming to show people being gathered and forced to march in the Salahuddin province.